Chemical Sensors are devices that provide information on their environment's chemical composition. It is given through a measurable physical signal that is interlinked with the dilution of particular chemical species. Experts have noted that there is an indispensable need for cost-effective and portable chemical sensors in several sectors. Above all, in situations related to drug abuse.
Recently, a group of researchers has brought new development to the Chemical Sensors Market. They have made a chemical sensing chip that may be the solution to building a handheld device that can detect and trace chemicals. The device could be as swift as a breathalyzer that identifies alcohol and may be used to detect components of everything, from pollution to illicit drugs.
The present research is built upon the Gan Group's previous work, which dealt with making a chip that will be able to trap light at the end of gold and silver nanoparticles. Usually, what happens is that biological or chemical molecules fall on the surface of a chip. This results in the interaction between some of the captured light and the molecules, scattering the light into new energies. This effect happens in indecipherable patterns that act as fingerprints of biological and chemical molecules. They reveal information on compounds that are present inside the molecules.
In essence, all chemicals have distinctive light-scattering signatures. So it is believed that this technology can ultimately take the form of a handheld device which can be used for detecting urine, blood, breath, and other biological samples. It may also come to be merged with other devices to help identify chemicals present in the air or water or different kinds of surfaces.
The sensing method used in the previous report is known as SERS (Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy). They created a useful chip. However, it wasn't consistent in its design. Since the silver and gold were spaced disproportionately, it was hard to identify scattered molecules. It made it more challenging to locate them if they appeared on several locations of the chip.
In the present research, the team wanted to remedy this problem. They used four molecules, namely, BPT, BZT, 4-MBA, and TPT. These molecules with different lengths were used for the fabrication process so that the size of the gaps which appeared between the silver nanoparticles could be controlled. The new fabrication process relies on two techniques- self-assembled monolayers and atomic layer deposition. The team chose these two techniques instead of the one that is more usually used, i.e., electron-beam lithography. This is because it provides a SERS chip that has uniformity and is also more cost-effective to produce. Moreover, it approaches quantum-sensing capabilities.
According to experts, this chip will come to have many uses, including handheld drug detection devices. It may be used to assess water and air pollution or the safety of food. It could also be useful in the defense and security sectors and has a considerable amount of potential to be used in healthcare as well.
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